PositiveBooklistAs evidence that successive generations of philosophers have actually advanced human understanding, Grayling points not only to the ever-richer content of philosophy itself but also to new disciplines—including physics, psychology, and linguistics—incubated by philosophical inquiry. What Grayling hails as philosophy’s progress may appear problematic, though, to readers reluctant to join him in embracing scientific materialism (born of Baconian experimentalism) as a replacement for religious thought. A capacious and stimulating chronicle of philosophical endeavor.
Donald L. Miller
PositiveBooklistReaders will marvel at how Grant—a washed-up dry-goods clerk at the beginning of the Civil War—acquires the power and skill that made him the mastermind at Vicksburg of the largest amphibious army-navy operation staged by the U.S. military until D-Day. In a narrative taut with drama, Miller recounts how this resolute Union crusader takes the war down the Mississippi, defying geographic and military obstacles, thereby seizing control of the Confederacy’s essential internal waterway in a triumph that mattered more than Gettysburg or Antietam, a political as well as military breakthrough, freeing plantation slaves in large southern regions. Readers will recognize defects in Grant, as they see his heedlessness with other men’s lives, his intemperance in his own. But Miller leaves no doubt: the nation Washington helped to found needed this dogged warrior to defend it. War history alive with probing intelligence and irresistible passion.
RaveBooklistReaders will recognize the attractiveness of Everett’s quantum paradigm, offering a clear picture of reality, not merely a blur of probabilities. They will appreciate, too, the conceptual parsimony of a quantum science distilling its entire framework in a single wave formula ... Carroll argues persuasively that every available alternative to Everett’s formulation entangles scientists in inconsistencies likely to foreclose progress in developing a much-needed quantum explanation of gravity. Readers in this universe (and others?) will relish the opportunity to explore the frontiers of science in the company of titans.
PositiveBooklistMany—not all—believers will applaud Barton’s concluding appeal for a balanced perspective, acknowledging flaws in the Bible yet still affirming its indispensable status in sustaining religious faith. An impressive analysis of a knotty but irreplaceable book.
PositiveBooklistStrathern’s account focuses on the discovery of concepts—explained for the nonscientist with merciful clarity—essential to Mendeleyev’s vision, but it also explores the irreducible mysteries in the personalities of those who discovered the concepts. A book that brings lucidity to science while restoring human complexity to the scientists who do it: What more could a reader want?
RaveBooklistWhite illuminates the precarious place of literature in a world swarming with spies eager to manipulate—even to enlist—authors to advance their shadowy agendas. Readers witness the ruthless brutality of Soviet authorities imprisoning and executing dissident writers, but they also penetrate the deceptions of American and British intelligence agencies playing authors as pawns. A compelling reminder of literature’s influence—and vulnerability—in a world of power politics.
RaveBooklist...Gordon-Reed delivers a powerful composite portrait of the African American family whose labors helped make Jefferson’s Virginia residence a fountainhead of American culture ... Gordon-Reed teases out telling clues from correspondence and journals of the Hemingses’ struggle for dignity despite the cruel constraints of slavery ... A must-have acquisition for every American history collection.
RaveBooklistThe compelling personification of the labor activism once perceived as an alien Bolshevik threat by many Americans, Aino Koski stands out as a courageous female labor organizer in Marlantes’ compelling new family saga ... Marlantes poignantly depicts the intimacies of personal dramas that echo the twentieth century’s unprecedented political storms and yet in surprising ways reprise Finland’s oldest mythologies. Finally, it is Aino—tested in the novel’s climax by the exposure of long-hidden and horrifying secrets—who carries the reader to a profoundly humanizing conclusion. An unforgettable novel.
RaveBooklistIn this spirited romp through the history, folklore, and science of America’s pastime ... [r]eaders learn exactly what skills a pitcher must master to unloose a blazing fastball, a nasty splitter, a maddening knuckleball, or a tumbling sinker. Kepner even initiates readers into the devious craft of those throwing the notorious spitball. Relived episodes capture the excitement of superb pitching ... But readers also experience pitchers’ humiliation when their pitches fail them... From triumph to tragedy, readers trace the astonishingly diverse trajectories of the baseballs pitchers throw. Appreciative fans will keep this book zipping off library shelves.
T. J. Stiles
RaveBooklistRich in detail, the narrative reveals much about not only the unschooled genius who conquered a hostile commercial world but also the national culture he helped transform through his triumph ... A landmark study.
RaveBooklistIn learning about one boat’s world-straddling feats, readers also learn about the impetuous spirit that transformed society during the decades she sailed ... With an acute eye, Moore limns the conflicting human impulses in the first episodes of this epoch-making drama. Maritime history that opens onto much more.
PositiveBooklistKershaw shows in this capacious account of Europe since 1950 that history continues to gyrate and perplex ... An ambitious and thought-provoking chronicle.
PositiveBooklistDartnell discerns the effects of the plate-tectonic geology that created environments favorable to such innovation ... To Dartnell’s acute eye, later periods of human history likewise reflect the geodynamics of an evolving planet ... Penetrating geoscience delivers the surprising backstory of human history.
RaveBooklist...the iconic image of the flawless Bard loses credibility in Kells’ riveting account of a streetwise poet who rarely missed a trick as he made his fortune in the rough-and-tumble world of Elizabethan drama and book publishing. This savvy operator left to mysterious other hands the task of collecting and editing his works for posterity. To read, or not to read? Here, there’s no question!
Nancy Isenberg and Andrew Burstein
PositiveBooklistReaders will indeed struggle to square the Adamses’ reputation as antidemocratic conservatives with the father’s unyielding insistence on transparency ... Though the narrative exposes faults in both men, readers will discern in them an admirable independence from democracy-damaging party spirit as they approach major issues ... The Adamses’ anxieties about eighteenth- and nineteenth-century threats to American democracy may bring to readers’ minds the latest headlines.
Jeffrey S Cramer
RaveBooklist\"... Cramer helps readers understand why Thoreau sought consolation from Emerson alone ... the abiding strength of the tie between the two writers emerges as an animating presence in both men’s journals and correspondence, which Cramer mines for quotations that allow each writer to give his own unmediated account of their friendship. That strength shines forth especially in the laments of a grieving Emerson assessing a world made narrower and darker by the premature death of his dear friend. An illuminating history of an exceptional friendship.\
MixedBooklistThough they will recognize linkages between Jones and his predecessors, readers may marvel that because those messiahs rejected capitalism and the traditional nuclear family, Morris actually regards Jones’ followers as representative of a truer American Christianity than that found among conservative churchgoers. Astonishing sympathy for a lethal cult.
PositiveBooklist...he chronicles the remarkable life of its bibliophile librarian. It is a Renaissance life, astonishing for both its geographic and intellectual breadth ... A potent reminder that a great library originates as a bold adventure.
RaveBooklistYes, Boech knows how Sholokhov won Stalin’s approval by writing fiction and giving speeches that satisfied the ruthless dictator’s expectations. But he also discerns generally overlooked complexities, and, in this politically focused biography, he illuminates those complexities ... A haunting portrait of a gifted but flawed and ultimately self-lacerating soul.
RaveBooklistReaders roaring with laughter at outrageous puns one moment find themselves carefully assessing psychological studies the next, only to then spin into the wild linguistic creativity of jive. Geary’s own puckish style—mischievous and unpredictable—itself sparkles with wit as it provides the thread stringing together these variegated beads, all strikingly different, yet all remarkably similar in illuminating how wit exposes hidden truths, awakens dormant capacities. An exhilarating romp, entertaining and enlightening.
PositiveBooklist\"In surveying this score of tongues, Dorren teaches readers a great deal about how languages survive, evolve, and spread ... A fascinating foray into global linguistics.\
Jean Moorcroft Wilson
RaveBooklist...Drawing on newly available documentary resources, Wilson here analyzes the literary manifestations of combat trauma on Graves, insightfully illuminating why Graves turns from realistic to mythical perspectives on the war. But readers also see Graves’ artistic mutations within the context of broader postwar uncertainties—about family, faith, love, sex, friendship, and nationality. The vortex of uncertainty begins spinning more wildly when the volatile poet Laura Riding enters Graves’ life, hardening his literary judgment, shattering his marriage and family, even impelling him to follow her in a seemingly suicidal plunge through upper-floor windows ... Wilson promises further insights into the imaginative journey of this improbable pair in a second volume chronicling the later decades ... Readers fascinated by this complex poet will eagerly await that volume.
RaveBooklist\"Denver police acted quickly and violently when facial-recognition software identified financial advisor Steve Talley as the perpetrator of two area bank robberies. But precisely because that computerized identification proved erroneous—and costly and painful for Talley—Fry highlights this episode as symptomatic of a problem growing ever more inescapable in a world remade by computer algorithms ... A lucid and timely analysis.
PositiveBooklistCarefully examining both human drama and conceptual argument, Prideaux plumbs the turbulent depths of spirit hidden behind Nietzsche’s sunny affability ... With laudable lucidity, Prideaux explicates why Nietzsche hailed the emergence of the fearless Superman ... Compelling treatment of both the enigmatic man and his iconoclastic thought.
RaveBooklistFew sports analysts explain the sabermetrics certifying Babe Ruth’s baseball achievement more lucidly than Leavy ... The same insight and verve that attracted readers to Leavy’s portraits of Mickey Mantle and Sandy Koufax manifest themselves here as she traces the improbable transformation of the insecure Little George into the imposing Sultan of Swat, master of the diamond and unparalleled national celebrity ... an American icon brought to life.
PositiveBooklist\"A serious mountaineer, Kaag negotiates difficult alpine paths by relying on a guide familiar with both intellectual and physical ascents: Friedrich Nietzsche. In this deeply personal narrative, Kaag recounts two mountain journeys under the tutelage of the great German climber and thinker ... Fusing intense emotion with unflinching analysis, Kaag invites readers to make philosophy a life-elevating adventure.
PositiveBooklist\"After signing America’s first food-and-drug law in 1906, Teddy Roosevelt was quick to claim paternity. But in this compellingly detailed chronicle, Blum identifies Harvey Washington Wiley as the true father of the much-needed legislation. Readers follow this Purdue chemist, named the Department of Agriculture’s lead scientist, as he painstakingly documents the harmful effects of contaminants and toxins in the food supply and then fearlessly crusades for legal measures to protect the public ... Citing worrisome recent attacks on consumer-protection laws, Blum reminds readers of the twenty-first-century relevance of Wiley’s cause.
PositiveBooklist OnlineAny writer with strong legs can walk the 235 miles from Manhattan to Concord, Massachusetts; only Kevin Dann can do so in imaginative communion with Henry David Thoreau ... reaching Thoreau’s Concord cabin, so concluding his literary pilgrimage, Dann glimpses afresh the mythic vision that opened to America’s most resolute individualist upon contemplating there a pinxter flower...draws from his contemplation urgent imperatives for life-shaping action, distilling each of his sojourn-segment chapters into such an imperative. Exhorting readers to join him in emulating Thoreau, Dann promises them a richer and fuller life if they will internalize a dozen principles that transformed even the picking of huckleberries into an adventure of discovery for the Concord sage. A bracing revival of Concord transcendentalism.
David I. Kertzer
RaveBooklistKertzer unfolds the tense drama when the newly reactionary pope faces such popular hostility that he furtively flees Rome after hearing the cheers of crowds lauding the assassin who has murdered his chief administrator. The drama intensifies when the pope later reenters Rome backed by French and Austrian forces, crushing the hopes of both Italian nationalists and French republicans as he restores the church’s theocratic prerogatives. Diverse personalities, regimes, and philosophies come into focus as formative influences on the unpredictable evolution of church, city, nation, and continent. Essential reading for students of modern European history.
Martha C. Nussbaum
PositiveBooklist\"Readers will notice that the path Nussbaum charts from destructive to generous emotions unfolds along the political principles of the secular left. To be sure, Nussbaum calls for open public dialogue that includes a diverse range of voices. But then she dismisses religionists’ theological convictions as a distraction from political activism and waves away conservatives’ worries about family life. But even readers skeptical about Nussbaum’s political orientation will welcome this call for an emotionally healthier public life.\
PositiveBooklist...alongside this trajectory of stunning progress, readers trace a history of misconceptions about heredity ... Zimmer challenges the widespread misconception that DNA alone determines human identity, adducing compelling evidence that the way genes express themselves depends on environment, nutrition, and even culture. A wide-ranging and eye-opening inquiry into the way heredity shapes our species.
Stuart E. Eizenstat
RaveBooklist Online\"As one who experienced the Carter presidency up close, Eizenstat draws from his own copious in-the-moment notes, as well as hundreds of interviews, to deliver an exceptionally detailed chronicle of four eventful White House years ... Eizenstat’s taut behind-the-scenes narrative gives readers unexpected reasons to appreciate Carter’s stunning accomplishment in negotiating peace between Egypt and Israel. A compelling reassessment of an oft-maligned chief executive.\
RaveBooklistSome people like an olive with their martini; Holt prefers a bit of quantum entanglement. Indeed, in this scintillating collection of essays, Holt makes quantum entanglement—and other large ideas, including fractals, infinite sets, and string theory—the perfect enhancement for cocktail chatter. Always lucid, frequently amusing, occasionally poignant, these essays invite curious readers to explore vistas originally opened by exceptionally daring and powerful minds.
PositiveBooklistWith lucid economy, Greenblatt illuminates the twisted but surprisingly vulnerable psyches of Shakespeare’s power-hungry tyrants and traces the horrid chain of offenses they commit against innocent individuals and against the body politic ... Greenblatt hints, in his analysis of Shakespeare’s plays, at a critical perspective of urgent relevance in the world of twenty-first-century politics. Compelling literary history and analysis.
Michael S. Gazzaniga
PositiveBooklistNothing if not daring, Gazzaniga attempts a task that has long frustrated philosophers and scientists: namely, that of explaining human consciousness ... It will surprise readers how this seamless stream originates as disparate bubbles of consciousness instinctively welling up in the various regions of the brain. A rare opportunity to probe the frontiers of neurological inquiry.
RaveBooklist OnlineA timely meditation on the precarious state of America’s national pastime.
William I Hitchcock
PositiveBooklistYet in emphasizing Eisenhower’s political virtues, Hitchcock still confronts Ike’s troublesome failings, including those that sometimes made the CIA a foe of democracy abroad. Still, even in his defects, the Eisenhower who emerges here stands head and shoulders above his anxious and nakedly ambitious vice president, Richard Nixon. A complete and persuasive assessment.
RaveBooklistIn this riveting narrative, Massing recounts how the incendiary friar eventually quarrels with and finally repudiates his erstwhile leader, so sundering the church that Erasmus hopes to reform from within, and opening up a epoch-defining gap between Protestant evangelism and cosmopolitan humanism ... America’s conservative Protestants...will learn much from this account of the lasting transatlantic impact of the clash between Erasmus and Luther.
RaveBooklistThe story...delivers all the page-turning suspense of a mystery novel laced with insights into modern mathematics and quantum physics, and into the dynamics of family relationships. A brilliant first novel radiant with promise of even better to come.
RaveBooklistDeftly melding biographical narration, historical analysis, and literary explication, Jasanoff lets readers glimpse in Conrad’s fiction the fate of vulnerable individuals who ventured too far in a world rapidly losing its boundaries. And as one who—despite the cost and the danger—has retraced many of Conrad’s journeys, Jasanoff compellingly asserts the novelist’s continuing relevance as an interpreter of our (post)modern geopolitical and cultural perplexities. Certain to attract both history buffs and those drawn to literary biography.
RaveBooklistTaking readers deep into a marriage that previous biographers have dismissed as merely functional, Sebestyen illuminates moments of real tenderness—and of painful tension—as Lenin succumbs to the charms of a beautiful émigré, whom he makes his mistress without abandoning his wife. Lenin’s handling of rivals comes into focus in a different context when Sebestyen analyzes the ways the dictator advances his agenda by playing the scintillating Trotsky against the ruthless Stalin. Readers see a great historical tragedy play out, however, as Russia’s dying Red Tsar leaves his most bloody-minded lieutenant in prime position to take over the brutal police state he has forged. A compelling portrait of an epoch-making figure.
PositiveBooklistReaders see how the shadows of the fallen Adam and Eve persisted in Judeo-Christian theology—as well as Western philosophy, art, politics, and sexual ethics. But Greenblatt persuasively argues that Adam and Eve would look different if Origen had persuaded the early church to accept his allegorical understanding of the pair. Instead, Augustine impressed on the Christian mind a sternly literal understanding of Adam and Eve, leaving later believers unprepared for Darwin’s scientific explanation of human beginnings. Though not a believer himself, Greenblatt worries that the imaginative and narrative aridity of Darwin’s explanation of the first hominids has made it a problematic substitute for the scriptural account of Adam and Eve. An impressively wide-ranging inquiry.
RaveBooklistTaubman offers hard-won glimpses into the heart of a dreamer sharing a body with the mind of a cagey political operative. With insights comparable to those that won the Pulitzer Prize for his biography of Khrushchev, Taubman here limns the difficulties Gorbachev confronted as he pursued perestroika and glasnost against resistance from hard-liners ready to drive him from office (perhaps into prison), even as liberal activists censured him for stalling. Though Gorbachev reshaped the world, Taubman does not ignore the Soviet leader’s ultimate failure as the liberalization process slipped out of his control and finally broke down in ways since exploited by the reactionary Vladimir Putin. Despite Putin’s retrenchment, Taubman still recognizes in Gorbachev one of the modern era’s greatest benefactors. A masterful portrait, convincing and complete.
RaveBooklistWriting in 1922 to Sigmund Freud, the disgruntled husband of a woman undergoing psychoanalysis challenged the famous psychologist: 'Great Doctor, are you a savant or a charlatan?' In this devastating exposé, Crews answers that question with stunning clarity ... Crews relentlessly shreds the deceptions that Freudians even now try to maintain. Trumpeted as a daring breakthrough, Freudianism incorporated concepts the Viennese physician borrowed from mentors he idolized, then betrayed. Framed as the distillation of lessons learned through successful treatments of many patients, Freud’s psychoanalytic method, Crews argues forcefully, emerged with a thin—and mendaciously edited—case history. Disguised as objective truth, Freudianism bore the marks of its creator’s deep-seated insecurities—and guilt. This thorough dismantling of one of modernity’s founding figures is sure to be met with controversy.
RaveBooklistBit by agonizing bit, Buckmaster pries from his painful bodily experiences and his even more painful flights of imagination answers to his profoundest questions about what it means to be a man, a father, a lover, a mortal in a godforsaken, god-haunted polyverse. Readers who, like the protagonist, yearn for answers to such questions will find such by joining him in a psychological maelstrom. Daunting but rewarding, this dazzling work will burnish Kingsnorth’s already luminous reputation.
PositiveBooklistGuided by Benner, readers penetrate the benign deception in the Florentine author’s authorial ventriloquism and so learn to recognize the subtle but profoundly humane implications of his most famous work, ignored by centuries of readers deaf to the irony undercutting its amoral recommendations. A persuasive challenge to the received opinion of a Renaissance titan.
RaveBooklist\"Levingston here recounts the story of how those cruelly disappointed hopes surged anew just five months later when President Kennedy delivered a stirring speech urging Congress to pass civil rights legislation conferring full citizenship on the nation’s largest minority group ... A riveting episode in American history.\